Despite eased COVID-19 restrictions, Saskatoon church still opts for virtual Easter services

·2 min read
Rev. Nobuko Iwai has been holding virtual services for her Grosvenor Park United Church congregation in Saskatoon since the pandemic hit last year. This Easter, the church plans to continue with its online offerings to avoid any possible COVID-19 transmission. (Grosvenor Park United Church/Youtube - image credit)
Rev. Nobuko Iwai has been holding virtual services for her Grosvenor Park United Church congregation in Saskatoon since the pandemic hit last year. This Easter, the church plans to continue with its online offerings to avoid any possible COVID-19 transmission. (Grosvenor Park United Church/Youtube - image credit)

In past years, Saskatoon's Grosvenor Park United Church has teamed up with other local churches to celebrate Easter. And this year is no different — except instead of marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ together in-person, the celebration will be online.

This long weekend, the church plans to hold prerecorded Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, along with virtual communions, prayers and coffee hours.

Last month, the provincial government expanded worship service guidelines to allow up to 150 people maximum — or 30 per cent capacity — everywhere but Regina and its surrounding area.

Since Grosvenor Park is located in Saskatoon, that would mean its service could still go on in person. But the church's reverend, Nobuko Iwai, still opted to go virtual.

"We couldn't sing. We couldn't shake hands. We couldn't use wind or brass instruments — and we couldn't share food or drinks. Those things make in-person worship meaningful," she explained.

Plus, Iwai added, with COVID-19 cases on the rise across the province — many of them believed to be variants of concern — sticking online felt like a safer option.

"It's been over a year now of doing online services, so we're getting used to doing this stuff together. It's not the same, and we would love to be together … but that's not what love looks like today," the reverend said.

"Today, it seems to me that love looks like caring for each other, staying away from each other, wearing your mask and washing your hands."

Rev. Nobuko Iwai says music is a "meaningful" part of Grosvenor Park United Church and is among what members of the congregation miss most about pre-pandemic services.
Rev. Nobuko Iwai says music is a "meaningful" part of Grosvenor Park United Church and is among what members of the congregation miss most about pre-pandemic services.(Grosvenor Park United Church/Website)

Reverend draws parallels between Holy Week and pandemic

This year, Iwai said the pandemic is drawing a number of similarities with Holy Week (the lead up to Easter Sunday).

In Christianity, Easter holds themes of hope, grief and resurrection, she noted, which translates into how many are coping these days.

"There are people who are grieving who haven't been able to have funerals, there are people who haven't seen their families, there are people who are lonely," Iwai explained.

"We are living through our Holy Week — our crucifixion, if you want to put it that way. And we're not yet at the resurrection morning."